It’s the Decade of Human Capital, Jackson Says

Jun 28, 2015
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Hank Jackson on stage

​SHRM President and CEO Henry G. "Hank" Jackson kicks off the opening General Session June 28. Photo by John Anderson.

“How do we, the HR profession, navigate the new world of work, when work is more global, mobile and social than ever before?” asked Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) President and CEO Henry G. “Hank” Jackson as he kicked off the SHRM 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition on June 28, 2015.

“I see a growing, dynamic profession whose value to organizations has now made us business leaders. Given where business is today, and where it’s headed, HR has no option except to lead,” he said.

HR for a Changing World

Jackson noted that many long-predicted developments to the changing work world have now arrived. Among these transformative forces, he said, are the following:

Technology. “The rising bar on the skills and education that people and businesses need is being driven by advancing technology,” Jackson noted. “It’s creating some new, innovative jobs and industries and making others obsolete. But more critically, technology is slowly eliminating the need for a central office location. How do we build ‘office’ cultures without the ‘office’?”

Demographics. “We have the rise of the Millennials, who only a few months ago became the largest generation in the workforce,” Jackson remarked. “On the other hand, we’re in the middle of that wave of Baby Boomer retirements.”

For the first time in history, he pointed out, there are five generations working side by side, “and they all have different motivations and expectations of work.”

Globalization. Employers “no longer have the option of saying ‘I’m local’ because a bright employee can now work from anywhere in the world, and many of them do,” Jackson said. “Talent is borderless, so we are all global now, competing for the best and the brightest.”

Talent Takes the Lead

To make it in this new business world, “organizations need the most engaged, productive and talented workforces. They need teams and cultures that give them the best chance of succeeding, no matter where they are,” Jackson said. “They need people who embrace change, seek innovation and press forward despite ambiguity. They need HR professionals.”

Recently, the Conference Board asked CEOs, presidents and chairs around the globe what their most critical challenges were. “While they named the usual suspects—innovation, customer relations, operations and sustainability—at the top of their list was human capital,” he pointed out.

Likewise, “a survey by the SHRM Foundation and the Economist Intelligence Unit found that what organizations need most today and into the future are people management strategies for an ever-changing world,” he noted, and “the World Economic Forum has said that talent, not financial capital, is the key to ‘innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century.’ ”

The conclusion Jackson drew from these findings: “Leaders are recognizing that something they must do in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world is have the right talent. And finding, developing and keeping that talent—that’s our job.

“Nearly 50,000 HR professionals have achieved the new SHRM certification and taken the SHRM Competency Model to heart,” he commented. “We extensively researched and carefully designed this competency model to take HR to that next level, to move our profession further into business leadership.”

A Leadership Example

Jackson spoke of the importance of HR leaders such as Shara Gamble, SHRM-CP, HR director at TAMKO Building Products in Joplin, Mo., whom he introduced from the audience. Gamble, featured in the May 2015 issue of HR Magazine, “wanted her 10-person HR team to make sure managers had two things: competent, well-trained talent and useful people analytics. But [she] found her HR team spending its time on transactional duties like payroll and benefits administration,” Jackson observed. “She decided to disrupt that status quo” by offering cross-functional training so that HR had a broader grasp of daily operations, and then challenging her team to offer solutions to the business problems that managers face. “And this small but passionate HR team rose to the challenge. They transformed even the most day-to-day HR duties into strategies that impacted their business,” he noted, calling Gamble “a business leader who just happens to be an expert in HR.”

Concluded Jackson, “Leaders and others in business are coming to understand what we know: that great organizations are led by great HR. If we accept this leadership challenge, there will be no debate about the need to bring HR into every business decision, and more organizations will live up to their claims that people are their greatest asset.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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